2023 NCAA Tournament

Jim Nantz finished his three decades of CBS’ NCAA Basketball like a conductor flourishing his baton!

In the blow out that it essentially turned into, UConn won it fair and square. The Huskies were the better team and have turned into America’s college basketball powerhouse. The game started late and by 10:15 ET, halftime pre-planned programming was running. There wasn’t much hope for San Diego State. An hour or so later, UConn sealed its fifth tournament since 1999.

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  • Dan Hurley, UConn’s coach, talked before the game about the need to be physical. Wasn’t his team ever so? When all said and done, it was the men against the boys.
  • Bob Fishman retired and his successor was Mark Grant. Fishman, among the best directors ever has won a chunk of coveted awards. What hit me were intros to Tracy Wolfson, upon which on occasions were not in sync. Tracy made it work as smoothly as possible. Camera shots taken from unconventional spots, like those behind baskets took viewers time to get used to. It’s a difficult facility. The announcers are placed into one long trench, a few feet below the floor.
  • In the pre-game show, Clark Kellogg ribbed Charles Barkley for dressing gaudily. Chuck wore garnished and glaring, red-oversized headgear, a twenty-gallon chapeau. Chuck is wonderful obviously, better and more prepared on Turner’s NBA casts.
  • At the open, Jim Nantz struck me as simply nervous and understandably so. This was his last hoops’ event, after starting in 1991. He leaves reluctantly, I’m sure, yet for the better. He was breathing heavily while sitting near massively improved Grant Hill and the man who can make anyone laugh, Bill Raftery. You can argue that Raf explains plays economically, and projects what each team needs to do next. Bill also has that smile which is contagious. He’s 79.
  • Three of the four hosts Clark Kellogg, Kenny Smith and mediocre Jay Wright projected UConn. Only Chuck gave SD State the nod. It didn’t look like he put any thought into it. But he gets away with it and he is humorous. Smart guy though.
  • I’m only human and occasionally mistake-riddled. Despite all the ground covered by the trio of Nantz, Raftery and Hill, there was no reference to two folks sitting next to one another all night, Stu Jackson, and Val Ackerman. The two worked simultaneously for the late NBA commissioner David Stern in the league office. They were at the end of the official table at courtside, and often seen on the screen, sitting side-by-side.
  • Naturally Ackerman the Big East Commish and Jackson the recently appointed head of the Mountain West Conference. They overlapped at the NBA and learned much from Stern. Who wouldn’t?
  • Little mention of SDSU’s Michael Cage or Kawhi Leonard. In 1988, Cage won the NBA’s rebounding title and Leonard, humble, accomplished and still active in the NBA.
  • Another idea for college basketball telecasts, how about showing shots of celebrities in attendance? A proliferation of relationships (a la, Ashley Judd and Kentucky basketball!) It won’t hurt.
  • CBS’ Tracy Wolfson– early in second half reported on how SD coach Brian Dutcher felt hopeful going into the second half. She reported on the team’s challenge, due to lack of depth and a truncated roster of subs.
  • An 8-0 run by the Aztecs and Nantz was ready with backup material as only he can, doing his homework. For Raf, much like Jim, “fill” mode is an easy transition.
  • Once or twice in the tourney, Jim reminded me of Marty Glickman, using a soft and simple term., “He shoots.”
  • Leaving the dullish second half rails – the trio were cheerful when sharing stories about the basketball extraneous, limited only by short-lived runs by the Aztecs that weren’t sufficiently meaty.
  • Reluctant to shoot in the first half, SDSU passe up on too many open opportunities, Raf showed his frustration, “Shoot it” – he shouted, wanting a competitive game.
  • No live photo of former coaching great Jim Calhoun, made me wonder. Was he in Houston at the game? For Kevin Ollie’s title, the last one, he was there, cheering him on. An issues there?
  • A sample of a Nantz story: – UConn’s Alex Karaban, an ex-swimmer was a fan of Michael Phelps and cultivated a relationship with him.
  • Grant Hill is getting better and better, I have marked on my notes.
  • Ian Eagle is scheduled to follow Nantz. He knows the game but he’ll need to develop the art of telling a story and when to chime in. Ian knows both the college and pro game. Yet it’s the stories that lack, a relaxed tone. He’ll get better.
  • Tracy Wolfson, often contributes lots and always works tirelessly. Late in a game, during a timeout, she said that SD coach Dutcher still had faith in his team when the score was insurmountable. The team did have it truncated to five, but UConn immediately erupted with big buckets.
  • Leave it to Nantz, saying: Four of the five Huskies’ championships were earned in Texas, since ’99. He compared UConn with Kentucky and Indiana of what the program is now.
  • San Diego’s radio voice and also ex-longtime Padres voice, Ted Leitner, called the game for the Aztecs. Ted ias a piece of work. He’s an institution in the San Diego community.
  • For the Huskies, it was Mike Crispino, fair at best, and partner Mr. UConn, Wayne Norman, who has sat in that seat for 42 years. The four earlier titles had the lovable Joe D’Ambrosio behind the play-by-play mic. I erred in an earlier edition that D’Ambrosio had retired. My apologies, I’m happy to report that he’s doing UConn baseball on TV for the schools’ new digital platform. He’s also involved with USL Hartford Athletic soccer on ESPN PLUS. Yes, the late Marty Glickman did UConn football and basketball in the 1980s.
  • Happens every year at the tourney, confetti glitters off the top of Nantz’ hair. We’ll see him next on golf and football.
David J. Halberstam

David is a 40-year + industry veteran who served as play-by-play announcer for St. John's University basketball in New York and as radio play-by-play voice of the Miami Heat in South Florida. He is the author of Sports on New York Radio: A Play-by-Play History and The Fundamentals of Sports Media and Sponsorship Sales: Developing New Accounts.

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Michael Green
1 year ago

I HOPE it was Jim Nantz’s decision, based on his having young kids. I thought of Joe Buck talking about how his dad made clear to him that he shouldn’t follow in his footsteps in taking every possible assignment that came his way, and Marty Brennaman ribbing Vin about a night off and Vin replying that he noticed that they played the game whether or not he was there. He’s had an incredible run, and he’s been lucky in some ways not to suffer, as past legends like Curt Gowdy and Chris Schenkel did, from overexposure.

Barry Kipnis
1 year ago

I think we have to be more candid in reviews about what the announcers say and what they don’t say. Since Nantz is leaving NCAA basketball, couldn’t he have said something about Alabama’s star player who was involved in a near campus murder or the state of college basketball in general? During Westwood One’s radiocast, I heard the announcer (not sure who) say that what happened with Alabama “was well publicized” and that’s all. What’s that mean? I guess all our afraid if they are outspoken they’ll lose their jobs.